During my childhood, a 15-year-old expectant young woman came to stay with our family for a few months to attend support classes and make some very difficult decisions. As I watched someone not much older than myself make grown up choices I realized that creating life is serious business and not something to take lightly or for granted.
On Wednesday I was reminded of that experience as I was invited to report on the Logan Utah LDS Family Services celebration for birth mothers, mothers who have placed babies for adoption, in honor of National Birth Mother’s Day which is tomorrow, May 7th.
The room was filled with expectant mothers, birth mothers, birth grandmothers, adoptive parents, adopted children, volunteers, social services staff . . . and a new fiancé.
Yes, there was a special excitement in the room as one of the birth mothers announced she had just gotten engaged that afternoon to a man she met shortly after placing her baby for adoption ten months ago. The glow on her face as she snuggled under the arm of her fiancé and proudly showed off her new bling told a story that proves there is such a thing as happily ever after.
Just ten months before this special day, this same young woman had tears running down her face and pain in her heart as she held her beautiful new baby boy. Not far away were the adoptive parents she had chosen to parent her son through life. This birth mother had made a difficult choice, but one she knew was right for her and most importantly, right for her baby.
The months following were excruciating and full of questions – If it was the right choice, why does it hurt so much? Will anyone want me after this? What should I do now?
Answers started to come as she continued to attend the weekly support group meetings for single expectant mothers and birth mothers held at LDS Family Services, which she attended faithfully throughout her pregnancy. Being with other girls who were going through what she was helped her to heal and move forward.
As described by Sandy Burborough, Adoption/Birth Mother Manager at the agency, “The support group is a safe place for these girls to meet and express feelings, concerns, explore options and heal.” It is open to single expectant mothers of any age, ethnicity or religious belief and is free of charge.
There are strict rules that are reviewed at the beginning of each meeting to ensure a secure environment:
– No parents, grandparents, friends, boyfriends, spectators or any other visitors allowed.
– No side conversations – anything said must be presented to the whole group.
– No cell phones or other electronic devices.
– Respect for everyone’s feelings, decisions and situations.
– Be honest and real about what’s going on, no pretense or idealizing.
While birth grandparents are not allowed in the girls’ meeting, a support group meeting is available for them at the same time.
There is also counseling available for birth fathers and single expectant couples who are considering marriage.
“We are non-profit and all about helping families succeed here,” says Sandy. “We support the expectant mothers in making their own decision, we do not make it for them.” She says this is one of the biggest myths about their program. “We educate and support them. When they’ve made their decision we help them create the best situation for the choice they’ve made. Our greatest concern is the well-being of the child.”
Sandy explains that whatever decision the mother makes, there are numerous aids at LDS Family Services to assist them:
– If she is marrying the child’s father, there are classes on marriage and counseling available for them.
– If she is placing for adoption, there is counseling and the website itsaboutlove.org which has amazing resources and information on pregnancy, options, adoption, testimonials from real birth mothers, answers to questions for the birth mother, father and grandparents.
– If she is single-parenting, there are parenting classes and counseling about health care, employment and education options.
The struggle a single expectant mother goes through is probably only matched by that of couples who would like to have children and are unable to.
Cache Valley’s chapter of Families Supporting Adoption (FSA) sponsored the celebration for Birth Mother’s Day as they want to show their love and support for the people who help make their family dreams possible, and what better way to do that than with a buffet of delicious things to dip in chocolate? (Kudos on the refreshments FSA.)
I spoke with James and Jenny Lyman, co-chairs of the organization and adoptive parents of a 4-year-old daughter, and Nicole Coppin, Secretary and prospective adoptive mother. They discussed the purposes and functions of the organization which fall under three categories: education, media and activities. They educate prospective adoptive couples, make school presentations, create and distribute resource materials, promote national adoption, and provide annual workshops, conferences and activities for members such as play groups and date nights.
As Jenny gushed about her daughter and the birth mother who placed her baby with them she said, “It’s a wonderful way to build families.”
The trend of open adoptions has changed the face of adoption over the years as birth mothers choose their families to place their babies with and have more interaction with the family and the baby after placement than in times past.
When I asked Birth Mother Committee Chair Courtney Vaughn about her choice to place her baby for adoption she said, “I just had a feeling from the beginning that adoption was right for me. I was only 16 and I knew I couldn’t give this baby all it needed.”
She was referred to the family she placed with through a family friend and reviewed their online profile, then met them. She said she knew they were the family for her baby.
As I watched the close interaction between an adoptive mother, adopted child, birth mother and grandmother I was curious. Coming from a generation where closed adoptions were the norm, I wondered how it worked to have so much interaction in a situation that seemed so sensitive and complicated.
The details of each case are different, depending on personal comfort level and situation of both families. “There are boundary issues sometimes, but we work through them. We are a family,” one adoptive mother said.
“It’s just more people for the child to love and be loved by,” a birth mother expressed.
Between the chocolate, the information, and a very personal peek into an alternate world of families I had been very well fed.
I thank LDS Family Services for the invitation and all those who allowed me learn more about their unique families.
I wish a Happy Birth Mother’s Day to the women who make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love.
I offer congratulations to the sweet new bride-to-be and the man who looked into her heart and past her past to give her the promise of true love and babies to keep forever this time.